To Be is To Do

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A dynamic language

The Hebrew language works different from ours. That makes it very
difficult to translate, and that causes translations to be often poor
and lacking. One of the differences is that the Hebrew language is much
more dynamic than ours. Hebrew is all about action. Something is
reckoned after what it does, not after how it looks. This principle is
quite fundamental in Scriptures; it is applied all over. Probably most
drastic in the Second Commandment where the Lord prohibits the making of
graven images. A graven image after all does not move, and a statue
that, for instance, tries to display a calf is not showing typical
calf-behavior but static appearance.

The principle even occurs in the New Testament, which is
written in Greek but with a Hebrew way of thinking. The second chapter
of James, for instance, explains that a believer is not someone who
looks like one, or even says she’s one, but rather someone who acts
like one. To be is to do.

Hold that thought (15)

In Hebrew Scriptures, and all models derived thereof,
entities are reckoned solely after their behavior and not after their

An entity is a behavior, not that which executes the

It is crucial that the reader takes a firm hold of this
principle. If a modern Westerner would see a picture of a lion, she
would say, “That is a lion.”
If an ancient Hebrew would see someone gather and devour
food, she would say, “That is a lion.”

horsecowspacerspacerspacer swallow

Imagine: you’re on a farm. In a field ahead you notice a
cow, a horse, and overhead flies a swallow. Question: of the horse, the
cow and the swallow, which two are most alike?

In our modern, Western way of thinking we are prone to
define something after the way it looks. Both horse and cow are large
mammals and are more alike than a cow and a swallow or a horse and a
swallow. Our answer: the cow and the horse are most alike.

But a Hebrew minds looks at activity, not appearance. And
it’s when these animals begin to move around that their characteristics
show. Cows graze or lay down and chew the cud. Horses however can be
seen racing along the hills, in tight packs or alone. Horses are swift,
may turn abruptly, shear the meadows like… swallows in flight.

The Hebrew verb sus means to be swift or to flash
by, and the noun derived from this verb indicates both the horse and the
swallow. A swallow would probably be known as something like ‘one who
is swift and flies with wings’. A horse would probably be deemed ‘one
who is swift and strong and vigorous.’
For the next paragraph it is important that we understand
that in Biblical times a horse was not seen as a giddy cousin of the
cow, but rather as a big, strong version of a swallow.

Significance of the First-Born

some insight from Rabbi David Fohrman at in his series on the exodus on the significance of the “firstborn”. God called Pharoah to give to him his firstborn so that they could worship him. As we know from scripture you cannot serve two masters and as long as they were slaves to Pharoah they could not serve God wholeheartedly. He needed his people free, but not just any people, he was after his firstborn. Looking at our natural families helps us understand the purpose or role of the firstborn. We might say the firstborn is a leader…but why is a leader needed among siblings when the parents are adequate for the role of leadership?

The problem always has been and still is today that there is a span of many years between parents and offspring we know as the generation gap. This gap makes it difficult for children to see how the values of the parents are to be lived out in their own context. It raises the question of whether they are even still relevant as the contexts change. Never truer than today. Rabbi David’s statement of interest was that the firstborn is given a special responsibility to be that bridge between the values of the parents and those of the children. He shows them how to live out those values in the different context that they live in and demonstrates that they are relevant and timeless. When the others look at him they are able to say, “hey, I can act that way or live that way too.” Now apply that role to Israel and we begin to see that God chose them not because he loved them more than the other nations but because he needed to build a bridge to demonstrate how the values of the high and lofty God could be lived out in the context of a lowly and fallen creation.

Karina’s Tigger disappointment

Karina was all dressed up in her Tigger outfit earlier in the day for Halloween that evening. In the thrill of the moment she begins to jump and bounce around in her usual fashion, as she is naturally quite a tiggery kind of girl. But then she walks over slowly with her shoulders slightly drooping and face downcast. “What’s wrong honey?” I ask her.
“Tail not woking.”
   “really, it’s not working?”
“No, it doesn’t bounce. It not woking.”
I try my best to look sad for her. I remember the times as a child facing the disappointment that “real life” wasn’t quite like what was depicted in movies or cartoons.